The Zion Williamson Show is officially back. Even just for preseason viewing.
The New Orleans Pelicans forward returned to the court Tuesday night to score 13 points in a 15-minute performance in a 129-125 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
Earlier on Tuesday, Williamson told ESPN that his mindset was to treat it like another preseason game, but he admitted it was hard to ignore the ones that let his phone blow up and surfaced on social media about the one he missed. Years of news.
Williamson showed his old self during the game. He built a major on Bulls forward Patrick Williams. He had some people on the Pelicans bench who thought it should have been a chase block on Williams a minute before the first quarter, which was ruled a goalie. Still, he’s demonstrating the skills that made him a household name.
After Tuesday’s game, he said he was most excited to play what he loved. That doesn’t mean fans get to see everything the Pelicans are doing with Williamson.
“Can’t show them everything,” Williamson said after the victory. “But feel it again. Find the position. Pick and choose where I want to attack. But, since the last game, I have had a new team. I’m still learning some, guys. Today we were able to click. We’ll be in good shape if we can do that for the rest of the preseason.”
Since Williamson last donned his jersey on May 4, 2021, the Pelicans were down to five players, two of them — Brandon Ingram and Kira Lewis Jr. The injury missed Tuesday’s preseason.
New Orleans has restructured its roster around Williamson, Ingram, and guard CJ McCollum, whom the Pelicans traded before last year’s trade deadline.
The Pelicans brought in guard Devonte Graham to play alongside Williamson’s “Zion Point.” Still, Graham settled in a backup role in this version of the Pelicans, who he played against the Bulls. The game performed well, with a team-high 21 points and five assists off the bench.
He said he noticed a difference when Williamson was on the floor as the team tried to stop him in the paint.
“I think he looks good, too,” Graham said. “I know he’s happy to be there. I know it makes him feel good to hear his name in the starting lineup. It’s just the beginning.”
It’s also Willie Green’s first opportunity to coach Williamson since he brought in Green last season. Green is tasked with getting Williamson to average 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 61.1 percent from the field in 2020-21, back with Ingram, McCollum, and Jonas Valanciuna In the attack with solid firepower.
“He looks good, and he’s going to keep getting better,” Green said. “That’s what we know about Z. He works on that. He’s a competitor. It doesn’t look like it, but he’s got 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. That’s what he’s on the court. Work done.”